Recently, the all-white, all-male House Freedom Caucus met at the White House to discuss the fate of maternal healthcare, breast screenings and contraceptive coverage. What’s wrong with this picture? Can you spot anything that’s missing from the table?
That’s right: women.
Throughout history, in almost every culture, men have held positions of power in a disproportionate, unfair and imbalanced way. Men have always been the land owners, lawmakers and decision makers. It’s only very recently – within the last generation or two – that women have been allowed to vote, own property and businesses, and attend college. We’ve made progress, but not enough.
Even today, in 2017, women are still silenced and shut out from positions of power. Our current administration is a frightening example of this historical pattern – and unfortunately, it’s just one of many.
Consider this recent cover of The Hollywood Reporter, featuring CNN’s so-called A-team: all men. Yet CNN does indeed have a deep roster of female talent, including Brianna Keilar, Alisyn Camerota, Dana Bash, Kate Bolduan, Brooke Baldwin and Poppy Harlow. They are mysteriously absent from this cover photo. Why aren’t they being recognized alongside their male peers?
New CNN hire, Josiah Daniel Ryan tweeted this about the cover:
Apparently, there are no women involved in the media industry. That’s ridiculous and untrue, of course, but that’s what this photo (and subsequent tweet) suggest.
Senator Elizabeth Warren once said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re probably on the menu.”
In politics, science, medicine, sports and other traditionally male-dominated spaces, women are not automatically offered a seat at the table or taken seriously. We’re not invited to certain meetings, panels, clubs, golf games or photo shoots. We have to fight for the privileges, recognition, and opportunities we rightfully deserve.
And we must keep fighting. Because when one woman stands up for herself and demands a seat at the table, it empowers other women to do the same.
Susan J. Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, recently wrote a highly disturbing account of her time at the ride-sharing company – including accusations of sexual harassment and unfair treatment. While she filed multiple complaints with Human Resources about her boss, both HR and upper management ignored her complaint and he was only given a “stern talking to.”
When she was finally able to switch to another team, she discovered she wasn’t the only woman at Uber who’d experienced this kind of harassment. Many other women had similar experiences and they’d all received the same brush off from HR.
Fowler realized, “I can’t stay silent. I have to say something about this, because it’s outrageous. It must not continue.”
The day after Fowler’s post went live (and viral), Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ordered an immediate Human Resources investigation and called a company board meeting to address the allegations.
Since Fowler posted her story, other women have found the confidence to step forward and share similar experiences of misogyny and harassment at the company. Uber received extensive negative publicity. Customers were outraged and many deleted the Uber app from their phones. Their competition, on the other hand, has seen an upsurge. Seeing an opportunity for more goodwill, Lyft made a one million dollar donation to the ACLU. All of this happened because one woman, Susan Fowler, decided to share her story and post it online. (When people say to you, “Your voice matters,” this is exactly what they’re talking about.)
The moral of the story:
If you want a seat at the table – if you want power, influence, and a chance for your voice to be heard – you can’t wait for an invitation to arrive in the mail. You have to write your own invitation. You have to be courageous, take initiative and speak up – even if nobody’s inviting you to do so. These pictures don’t change until we change them.
If nobody’s offering you a seat, you have to pull up your own chair.